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Top 20 most wanted: the NRL’s biggest off-contract stars

2. Brandon Smith (Melbourne Storm)

Brandon Smith has expressed his desire to play hooker in 2022, but it is unlikely to do so at the Storm with Harry Grant returning from the Wests Tigers.

Brandon Smith has expressed his desire to play hooker in 2022, but it is unlikely to do so at the Storm with Harry Grant returning from the Wests Tigers.Credit:NRL Photos

Current contract: $450,000
New deal value: $650,000+
Status: Still has two seasons to run on his deal but the Storm have indicated they will release him in 2022 if they get a suitable replacement. The Titans, Broncos and Tigers have identified Smith as one of their top recruitment targets.

3. Latrell Mitchell (South Sydney Rabbitohs)

Latrell Mitchell looks set to remain at South Sydney.

Latrell Mitchell looks set to remain at South Sydney.Credit:Getty

Current contract: $800,000
New deal value: $875,000
Status: A two-year extension had been verbally agreed to but both South Sydney and his management were waiting on the NRL to finalise the revised CBA. Expect an announcement in the next week or two.

4. Jarome Luai (Penrith Panthers)

Panthers playmaker Jarome Luai is set to extend with Penrith.

Panthers playmaker Jarome Luai is set to extend with Penrith.Credit:Nine

Current contract: $400,000
New deal value: $700,000
Status: Luai’s manager Daryl Mather is negotiating a three-year deal that will see the five-eighth earn in excess of $700,000 each season. Expect him to remain at Penrith like close friend Stephen Crichton, who has agreed to a three-year extension.

5. Mitchell Pearce (Newcastle Knights)

Mitchell Pearce will need a big start to the season for himself and the Knights.

Mitchell Pearce will need a big start to the season for himself and the Knights.Credit:Getty

Current contract: $1 million
New deal value: $600,000
Status: Pearce wants to remain at the Knights but needs a big start to the year to convince Newcastle to recommit. Don’t discard the strength of his relationship with Trent Barrett if things don’t work out at the Knights.

6. Shaun Johnson (Cronulla Sharks)

Shaun Johnson is expected to return from an achilles injury between round eight and 10.

Shaun Johnson is expected to return from an achilles injury between round eight and 10.Credit:John Veage

Current contract: $850,000
New deal value: $600,000+
Status: Not expected back from an Achilles injury until at least round eight. Carried Cronulla to the semi-finals last year and led the NRL in try assists. The Sharks are waiting to see how he returns before making a play.

7. Mitchell Moses (Parramatta Eels)

Mitchell Moses has found a home at Parramatta but pressure is on the halfback to deliver a premiership.

Mitchell Moses has found a home at Parramatta but pressure is on the halfback to deliver a premiership.Credit:SMH

Current contract: $750,000
New deal value: $750,000
Status: Has a player option in his favour for 2022. Moses and the Eels are happy but pressure could mount on the halfback if the Eels struggle to live up to the growing expectation on the club to win a premiership.

8. Jahrome Hughes (Melbourne Storm)

Jahrome Hughes is testing his value on the open market.

Jahrome Hughes is testing his value on the open market.Credit:Getty Images

Current contract: $500,000
New deal value: $650,000
Status: The asking price is around $800,000 but there is little apetite for the premiership-winning halfback at that money. One of the most improved players in the game who is speaking to several clubs, including Brisbane, Cronulla and the Warriors.

9. Anthony Milford (Brisbane Broncos)

Broncos star Anthony Milford has struggled to live up to the hype in recent years.

Broncos star Anthony Milford has struggled to live up to the hype in recent years.Credit:Getty

Current contract: $1 million
New contract value: $400,000
Status: Faces a hefty pay cut at the end of the year but has the opportunity to convince new coach Kevin Walters to retain him. Few clubs are willing to go near Milford until they see how he plays in 2021.

10. Dale Finucane (Melbourne Storm)

Dale Finucane had put extension talks on hold to enjoy a holiday.

Dale Finucane had put extension talks on hold to enjoy a holiday.Credit:Getty

Current contract: $500,000
New deal value: $600,000
Status: The Storm have given Finucane time to enjoy his break after Origin. Expect negotiations to start soon with the NSW forward now viewed as a potential captain.

11. Angus Crichton (Sydney Roosters)

Angus Crichton had a much improved season at the Roosters in 2020.

Angus Crichton had a much improved season at the Roosters in 2020.Credit:Getty

Current contract: $800,000
New contract value: $650,000+
Status: Was being pushed towards the exit doors not long ago, but on the back of an impressive 2020 campaign – and uncertainty surrounding Boyd Cordner’s future – Crichton looks set to extend his time at the Roosters.

12. Isaah Yeo (Penrith Panthers)

Isaah Yeo is in for a pay rise after a strong showing in 2020.

Isaah Yeo is in for a pay rise after a strong showing in 2020.Credit:Getty

Current contract: $500,000
New deal value: $600,000+
Status: Yeo is the frontrunner to takeover from James Tamou as Penrith captain. On the back of his Origin debut, his manager is after $700,000 but it’s likely the deal will be worth slightly less given Penrith had to pay more than they budgeted to retain Crichton.

13. Maika Sivo (Parramatta Eels)

Maika Sivo scores one of his four tries against the Cowboys last July.

Maika Sivo scores one of his four tries against the Cowboys last July.Credit:Getty

Current contract: $320,000
New deal value: $400,000
Status: Sivo’s manager has sent an email to clubs asking for expressions of interest in the winger’s services for 2022. The Eels were pleased with Sivo’s start to last season but expect more than what he produced in the back half of the year if they are to get near his $500,000 asking price. Blake Ferguson has already been told he won’t be extended beyond 2021.

14. Ryan Matterson (Parramatta Eels)

Ryan Matterson has an option in his favour for 2022.

Ryan Matterson has an option in his favour for 2022.Credit:Brook Mitchell

Current contract: $500,000
New contract value: $550,000+
Status: Like Moses, Matterson also has an option in his favour if he chooses to leave the Eels. Matterson appears to have found a home under Brad Arthur at his junior club.

15. Cameron McInnes (St George Illawarra Dragons)

Cameron McInnes can negotiate with rival clubs.

Cameron McInnes can negotiate with rival clubs.
Credit:Getty

Current contract: $550,000
New deal value: $550,000
Status: The Dragons are reluctant to pay much more than what they are currently paying their skipper. There is little interest from the Tigers and Bulldogs with his manager chasing close to $700,000. Manly may be a club in need of a hooker.

16. Nathan Brown (Parramatta Eels)

Nathan Brown made his State of Origin debut for NSW last year.

Nathan Brown made his State of Origin debut for NSW last year.Credit:Getty Images

Current contract: $600,000
New deal value: $600,000
Status: Nathan Brown took up a player option to remain at the Eels but will need to stay on the field and avoid injury and suspension throughout 2021 if he is to convince the club he is worthy of a big money extension.

17. Adam Reynolds (South Sydney Rabbitohs)

Adam Reynolds will be looking to remain a one-club player.

Adam Reynolds will be looking to remain a one-club player.Credit:NRL Photos

Current contract: $800,000
New deal value: $550,000
Status: Started the year off slowly in 2020 but improved with the team. South Sydney have opened negotiations with Reynolds but it’s only early days.

18. Dane Gagai (South Sydney Rabbitohs)

Dane Gagai is regarded as one of the best representative players in the game.

Dane Gagai is regarded as one of the best representative players in the game.Credit:Getty

Current contract: $750,000
New deal value: $450,000
Status: One of the best representative backs in the NRL but clubs will be reluctant to pay a winger more than $500,000. South Sydney yet to open negotiations.

19. Matt Moylan (Cronulla Sharks)

Cronulla star Matt Moylan has put a bad run of injuries behind him to impress in the preseason.

Cronulla star Matt Moylan has put a bad run of injuries behind him to impress in the preseason.Credit:Getty

Current contract: $850,000
New deal value: $300,000+
Status: Has been Cronulla’s most impressive trainer in the pre-season after three injury-riddled years at the club. With Johnson out, Moylan will start the year at five-eighth.

20. Xavier Coates (Brisbane Broncos)

Xavier Coates scores an incredible try during last year’s Origin series.

Xavier Coates scores an incredible try during last year’s Origin series.Credit:Getty

Current contract: $250,000
New deal value: $500,000
Status: The 19-year-old met with Storm coach Craig Bellamy on the Gold Coast before Christmas. Will be in high demand after his performance in last year’s Origin series. Broncos in the box seat.

Honourable mentions: Aaron Woods, Will Hopoate, Josh Dugan, Ash Taylor, Dylan Walker, Curtis Sironen, Connor Watson, Kodi Nikorima, Scott Drinkwater, Jake Clifford, Blake Ferguson, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Matt Dufty, Corey Norman, James Roberts, Braidon Burns, Tevita Tatola, Isaac Liu, Brett Morris, Josh Morris, Daniel Tupou, Jake Friend, Jazz Tevaga.

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